Christian Dior: Sometimes a faint ring of the familiar and a modicum of restraint herald the fabulous. While neither John Galliano’s most original outing for Christian Dior nor his most outrageous, the collection the designer showed for the house on Wednesday was glorious nonetheless, filled with the kind of deliciously sexy clothes that make a woman start to fantasize about her parallel life as a glamour diva.

The clothes were gorgeous — and commercial, to boot. All right. Perhaps a gold lamé bikini worn with piles of diamonds and a suede-and-sable jacket cover-up is not for your average day at the beach. (Then again, maybe you’re not hitting the right beach.)But Galliano has always been about starting with the merely breathtaking — a remarkable jacket or evening dress — and transporting it into an extraordinary context, knowing full well that his women understand how to wear it. He wants to entertain us while showering wearable wonders on his clients, and if we lose the forest for the trees, that’s our problem.

Galliano’s big messages, beneath the wildly frizzed hair, glittered eyelids and black lips: tight and tighter, fur and more fur. He opened the show with a siren on the soundtrack, and no wonder why, as out came a glammed-up, tart-er sauce brigade reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich — now a Paris darling, thanks to the current Galliéra exhibition celebrating her style. To start, the lineup wore gray suck-it-in corset dresses and suits that dangled garters from hips and hems like decorative fringe. Time to loosen up? How about a floppy satin tracksuit, or half of one, mixed with something tight and titillating? Or a girl could go for a touch of peach — a decorated bustier, a flimsy dress — worn over a sheer, tattooed body stocking. While Galliano did some pilfering here — Gaultier got there first, and years ago — these still provided the perfect canvas for the eccentric combinations that delivered boundless sexual attitude with amusing whimsy. Galliano also used them as a foil for his evening dresses, each one a fringed, painted or appliquéd masterpiece. And, speaking of works of art, those spectator bags slung from endless strands of pearls might trigger the next great wait-list mania.For those who find pearls too discreet, other bags flaunted thick fur straps. But then, by Galliano’s lights, everything goes better with fur, especially fox, and he crafted coats and jackets in satin and fox, suede and fox, python and fox and croc and fox. Because Galliano knows his girls want to be all sexed-up and warm and fuzzy, too — even at the beach.



Balenciaga: It was short. It was sweet — and just a little eccentric. Nicolas Ghesquière’s blink-and-you-miss-it spring show was a brisk 24 exits long, but he made each of them count, packing in the info. Opening with a handful of rigorous suits in white and khaki, ideas from Ghesquière’s own archives — surfer gear, patchwork, mean tailoring — merged with shapes influenced by the house’s sculptural heritage and the architectural leanings of M. Cristobal himself.

Ghesquière looked back to jet ahead, infusing his arch look — perfect for a 22nd-century lady boss — with a futurism so strict that it was Eighties-esque. Hyper-constructed jackets, one spliced with peekaboo vinyl, another trimmed in the same, buckled and curved to frame stiff breastplates. Shoulders were rounded, the sleeves cropped short. Meanwhile, skirts intricately wrapped and bound by their seams were cut in sizes from narrow to harsh.

But then, just when the stricture was getting really intense, Ghesquière cut loose, ideologically and literally, sending out a riotous handful of belled baby-doll dresses in euphoric florals and piping-hot neon. Filmy peach aprons frilled with polite ruffles came layered over electric neoprene bras and swimwear, while bitsy brights were spliced together to create the loveliest of the lot, trimmed at their rippling hems with silver zippers.

Before calling it a day, however, Ghesquière returned to the serious stuff of haute structure, working layers of cream and black into cocoon-like encasements turned at the lapels to create graphic effects. Many of the looks, while challenging, demonstrated just what the designer is capable of, and perhaps those suits will turn into $uits. That would certainly be a big plus, since business at the house is said to be difficult of late. Will it be enough to bring Ghesquière’s buzz back to the boiling point?

Comme des Garçons: Stunning — more like stunned. Jaws dropped — and so did eyelids — at Rei Kawakubo’s spring show. We all know that planet Rei is a strange place, but it suddenly got stranger. She showed a single look — some would say bravely — again and again and again for the duration of her show. But no one could be more daring than the girl who steps from the raw wood runway to reality in one of Kawakubo’s creations. Her singular notion was, from the top down: a hat something like a wacky toreador might wear, a wisp — less! — of a nude net top, a bulging, globular skirt made from stiff pieces of molded and folded cloth, and, to complete the look, bare feet. It was a whole lot of skirt and not much else. Music on. Music off. Walk. Turn. Repeat.

Oh sure, one skirt, which looked poached from a school pageant, boasted giant scalloped lobes, while another hulked and curled itself around a fringed or pleated underskirt. A third, instead of being round, came poufed out like a croissant. There were a few prints, which were shown with exposed seams, turned inside out. But any variety was microscopic. You either loved it, or you hated it. Or, like Rei, you just skirted the issue.

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